Jose: biggest rivals are biggest friends

Jose Mourinho regrets the “little negative episodes” with Arsene Wenger over the years. He suspects his Arsenal counterpart feels the same, as the old foes prepare to do battle tomorrow, for perhaps the last time.

Manchester United welcome the Gunners to Old Trafford, as the Frenchman continues his farewell to the club he has served for 22 years.

Mourinho spoke of his great respect for Wenger, when the Arsenal boss’s imminent departure became public last Friday, despite having called him a “specialist in failure” and “voyeur” in years gone by.

They were just two of numerous flashpoints in a testy relationship that has brought a sense of regret.

“There were little things, where it would be obviously better without them,” former Chelsea manager, Mourinho, said.

“You know, some gestures, some words would be obviously better without it. I feel better now without it, no doubts about it.

“But, again, when I arrive in England, in 2004, Arsenal was the champion and was the famous champion of Invincibles, and I arrive and for the next couple of years it was with them.

“(Dennis) Bergkamp, Thierry (Henry), (Sol) Campbell — amazing team, so, again, thank you very much for that. They pushed us to the limits.

“The two matches we played, not at the Emirates, but at the amazing old stadium, are unforgettable.

“We had big matches, big fights, so thank you so much for that.

“Regret? Little negative episodes, yes I do, and probably he also does.”

Mourinho spoke glowingly of his long-time adversary, even if his suggestion that United would win this season’s Europa League could be construed as a dig at Arsenal, after Thursday’s semi-final, first-leg, 1-1 draw at home to 10-man Atletico Madrid.

Wenger will no doubt have the return leg in Spain on his mind, as he heads to Old Trafford, where he has been involved in some of the most memorable matches in Premier League history.

“I always feel that the biggest rivals are our biggest friends, because they’re the ones that pushed us to the limit,” Mourinho said.

“And I think Manchester United fans, they know that, until 2004, for about a decade, it was between Manchester United and Arsenal, it was between Sir Alex (Ferguson) and Mr Wenger.

“I think that these great teams Arsenal had, and the fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Manchester United, made Manchester United better and better.

“So, I hope they have that feeling, I hope he has a good reaction — or, if not good, at least not bad at all — and from us, the club, I think he is going to feel the respect we have.”

United are looking to do the double over Arsenal this season. Mourinho’s men were 3-1 victors at the Emirates Stadium in December. 

Things might have been different, were it not for David De Gea’s exceptional display that night, the kind of performance that underlines just why Real Madrid retain interest.

Keylor Navas’s struggles for Real have heightened speculation about De Gea, but Mourinho simply retorted “no chance”, when the spectre of his departure was brought up.

De Gea will get the chance to strengthen his grip on the Golden Glove on Sunday, with back-up goalkeeper, Sergio Romero, still out with a knee injury, sustained on international duty.

Antonio Valencia has overcome a muscle complaint, sustained in last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final win against Tottenham.


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